Christopher Bell wins at Phoenix to clinch spot in Xfinity title race


Facing a must-win situation, Christopher Bell did just that, winning Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at ISM Raceway to clinch a spot in the Championship 4 at Miami.

Bell entered the race 34 points out from the final transfer spot. He started 38th after his No. 20 Toyota did not get through inspection in time to qualify.

The rookie marched through the field and took the lead for good on Lap 108 when he passed John Hunter Nemechek.

Bell led 94 laps and beat Daniel Hemric, Matt Tifft, Austin Cindric and Ryan Preece.

It is Bell’s seventh win of the season, a rookie record.

“I’ll be honest after (DNFs at) Kansas and Texas I kind of just accepted we wouldn’t be able to get there,” Bell told NBC. “Just came over here with a ‘Let’s have fun attitude.’ … We didn’t really make our way up front that fast. I kind of got stalled out once I got into the top 15. I knew this thing was really fast because yesterday in practice it was really good. That clean air just meant so much. My pit crew did an amazing job … We’re going to (Miami), baby.”

Justin Allgaier, who won five races this season, was eliminated from title contention. He placed 24th, one laps down after he lost his brakes with about 20 laps to go.

Elliott Sadler, who will not compete full-time after the end of the season, was also eliminated.

Austin Cindric and Matt Tifft were the other drivers eliminated.

The Championship 4 will be Cole Custer, Bell, Hemric and Tyler Reddick

STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

MORE: Race results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Daniel Hemric earned his fifth runner-up finish without a Xfinity win … Matt Tifft placed third, his best result since he finished second at Road America … Austin Cindric earned his third top five in the last five races.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Akinori Ogata extended the series’ streak of incidents on Lap 1 to three races when he wrecked in Turn 3. He finished 33rd … After winning the first two stages, Justin Allgaier placed 24th, one lap down. He suffered damage from contact with John Hunter Nemechek on Lap 145. He then lost his brakes with about 20 laps to go, but finished the race.

NOTABLE: Chevrolet clinched its 19th manufacturer championship in the series at the start of the race … Christopher Bell’s seven wins are the most by a non-Cup driver in Xfinity since Dale Earnhardt Jr. won seven times in 1998.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: ”Disappointment. At the end of the day we did everything right this year. We had a great season. Today we did everything right at the beginning part of the race. That was probably the most frustrating part. We led a lot of laps. We won both stages. All things considered it was going to be a great day. Ultimately at the end, getting ourselves in that bad position, getting caught up in that little of a crash and losing brakes. At that point it was survival, gain as many points as we can gain.” – Justin Allgaier after he was eliminated for title contention.

WHAT’S NEXT: Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET on Nov. 17 on NBCSN


NASCAR America: Justin Allgaier, Christopher Bell in trouble ahead of Phoenix Xfinity race

1 Comment

The two best drivers in the Xfinity Series this season are in dire straits ahead of Saturday’s playoff elimination race in Phoenix (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

Christopher Bell, who has a rookie record six wins, and Justin Allgaier (five wins) each find themselves outside the championship four that will advance to the title round in Miami.

Allgaier is 12 points out of the final transfer spot and Bell, coming off two straight DNFs, is 34 points out.

On NASCAR America, Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte discussed whether both drivers would be able to qualify for the championship round.

“Nope,” Letarte said bluntly, adding he thinks neither will qualify. “Christopher Bell has to be your favorite going into it … Christopher Bell’s only option is to win. Sometimes you have to wonder what that does to the psyche of a team, to a young racer. This isn’t Kevin Harvick we’re talking about. This isn’t Joey Logano. While he’s as talented as such, probably so. Definitely doesn’t have the experience.

“How will he handle the moment?”

Burton predicted Bell will go to Phoenix and win the race.

“You look at the points, I see the opportunity for anything to happen,” Burton said. “This race is going to be crazy.”

Watch the above video for more.

Long: Tony Stewart suggests way to change NASCAR inspections


Shortly after his Stewart-Haas Racing organization completed its sweep of the Xfinity and Cup races at Texas last weekend, assuring Cole Custer and Kevin Harvick a spot in their respective championships, Tony Stewart was asked about NASCAR mistakenly sending Jimmie Johnson to the rear for the start because officials in race control were led to believe Johnson’s car failed inspection three times before the event.

Stewart unleashed a blunt missive.

“I still don’t understand why we have to worry about failing three times,” he said. “Bring your car, roll it through tech, you either pass or you don’t. I don’t know why we screw around, jack around with one, two, three times. It’s ridiculous to me.

“Only series in the world where you get to go through tech three times and fail twice, they still let you go through a third time. We got to figure it out. Got to make it simpler than this. Shouldn’t be this difficult.

“Half the time you don’t know what the penalty is supposed to be. I’m a car owner and I don’t know what the penalty is supposed to be. As a fan, I don’t know how the fans can keep up with it either. If you start rolling cars through one time, they don’t pass, they go to the back, I bet you there would be a lot less cars fail tech the next week. Who knows.

“I’m with you, I think it needs to be a less complicated way of doing it, for sure.”

It’s not a new thought. NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan wrote in May that NASCAR needs to “find a way to shrink the rulebook and open up the manufacturer competition again.”

That wasn’t the only issue that some questioned this weekend.

Clint Bowyer was penalized for having a crew member over the wall too soon when he came in to have has gas tank topped with fuel. Only the gas man went over the wall, but the penalty was not on him. It was on a pit crew member who sat on the wall with his feet touching pit road. The crew member never moved from that location during the few seconds Bowyer’s car was in the pit box.

Still, NASCAR called the penalty.

In a pit road handout NASCAR makes available to all teams it states for crew member(s) over the wall too soon: “A crew member’s foot must not touch the pit road surface before the vehicle is one pit box away from its assigned pit box or the equivalent marked distance.”

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, was asked after the race about the penalty to Bowyer’s team.

“That’s the rule,” O’Donnell said. “I know people don’t necessarily like all the rules. That’s the rule. If we don’t make that call, I think you guys would be asking why we didn’t.”

So, if the crew member’s feet had been dangling over – but not touching the pit road surface – there would have been no penalty.

It was no surprise that Kevin Harvick won Sunday at Texas. Talk in the garage before the race was how fast his car was. This time he and his team delivered.

Harvick has had the fastest green-flag speed in all three races on 1.5-mile tracks in the playoffs but had yet to win in the playoffs. The speed is a good sign for Harvick with the championship finale in Miami on a 1.5-mile track.

Harvick’s dominance is greater than 2014 when he ranked in the top three in green-flag speed in the 1.5-mile playoff races leading up to the finale in Miami. Harvick won the championship that year.

The two winningest drivers in the Xfinity Series this season might not race for a championship.

Christopher Bell (six wins this season) and Justin Allgaier (five) are both outside a transfer spot heading into Saturday’s Xfinity race at Phoenix (3:30 p.m. on NBC).

“That’s tough,” Allgaier said of he and Bell possibly not racing for a title despite their success all year. “That’s what this format is all about.”

Allgaier is 12 points out of the last transfer spot. Bell is 34 points back.

“I think you’re going to have to have somebody have a problem, whether that is a mistake or get caught up in something and not beat yourself,” Allgaier said of what it will take for him to advance. “On the flip side of that, if anybody could go there and win, I think Christopher is the guy that could easily go there and win. He was strong there in the spring. He finished fourth. We finished second. My hope is we battle it out for the win and we come out on top.”

Bell is in this spot after being involved in Lap 1 incidents the first two races of the round. His Texas race ended after contact with Austin Cindric sent Bell into the wall.

“The good thing we have going for us is that we’re competitive and we can fight for the win every single week,” Bell said. “I love Phoenix and have run good there in the past. I think we’ll have a really good shot at it. If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be. I’ve got another shot next year.”

Bell’s comment above is in reference that he’ll be back in Xfinity next season at Joe Gibbs Racing even though he said in August that “I don’t feel like I need another year of Xfinity.”

While no surprise, Cole Custer made it known this past weekend that he’ll be back next season in the Xfinity Series for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Also, Gray Gaulding announced this past weekend that he’ll drive in the Xfinity Series for SS Green Light Racing next year.

Bump & Run: Debating Cup, Xfinity playoff picture

Leave a comment

Who do you see as the favorite to win the Cup title, and who do you see as their biggest potential threat?

Nate Ryan: Kevin Harvick is the favorite, and it seems as if anyone driving a Ford would be his biggest threat, so Joey Logano trumps the remainder of the (formerly?) Big Three. If they advance to Miami, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. will have to prove their championship mettle.

Dustin Long: Kevin Harvick is the favorite. He’s ranked No. 1 in green-flag speed in the three playoff races on 1.5-mile tracks and it’s hard to think that speed will drop in Miami at that 1.5-mile track. Biggest threat: Themselves. If Harvick and his team don’t make mistakes, this is their championship.

Daniel McFadin: Kevin Harvick is the favorite and as of now Joey Logano will be his biggest threat given how the rest of the title favorites have been racing.

Dan Beaver: Given the current state of points and most likely drivers to contend for the championship, I have to say Harvick. If Chase Elliott makes it into the championship 4, however, he has been my pick since the start to the playoffs. 

What impact will relocating the start/finish line at Phoenix make there this weekend?

Nate Ryan: Probably minimal unless there’s an opportunity for a playoff driver in a must-win situation and running second to cut the dogleg on the last lap.

Dustin Long: More than people think. I’ll go with what Aric Almirola said about how he sees the change impacting the racing: “I would imagine that we will cross the start-finish line and be nine-wide going though the dogleg and then try to figure out how to get back to two-wide by the time we get to the new Turn 1.”

Daniel McFadin: Phoenix will probably have the most interesting restarts on the circuit starting this weekend. I’m hoping for a possible overtime restart to really see how drivers approach it.

Dan Beaver: Minimal. There will be some improved optics as drivers are now able to fan out, but the racing will be pretty much unchanged. 

Both Christopher Bell and Justin Allgaier have combined to win 11 of the 31 Xfintiy races this season but both are outside a transfer spot to Miami entering this weekend’s Xfinity race at Phoenix. Will they advance to the championship race? Will only one? Or will both fail to advance?

Nate Ryan: It seems as if one still could make it via a victory, and Bell seemed to be in a good frame of mind despite his crash at Texas.

Dustin Long: Both make it. Bell wins. Allgaier makes it on points.

Daniel McFadin: I think only one of them advances and it will be Allgaier by the smallest of points margins.

Dan Beaver: Bell makes it in on the strength of a top five or a win. Allgaier finishes well, but will not earn quite enough points. 

New looks coming for Chevrolet Camaro SS, Silverado for 2019

Leave a comment

The Chevrolet Camaro SS and Silverado are being redesigned for 2019 to look more like their production counterparts, Chevrolet announced Friday at Texas Motor Speedway.

The Camaro will have an updated fascia, hood and front fenders to go along with the flange-fit bodies in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

“Chevrolet had a mid-cycle enhancement on the 2019 Camaro and we try to strive our best to put that on the race track any time we have a change. We like to update the race model to look like the production model,” said Shane Martin, program manager for Camaro. 

The Camaro made its debut in 2013 and has visited victory lane 67 times.

“I’ve been fortunate enough now to drive the other versions of the SS,” Justin Allgaier said. “I believe there are two to this point, and this will be the third rendition of the Camaro SS. And, for me, when you look at the production vehicle and for us, it’s taking that pride on the race track of racing something that looks so similar to the production vehicle.”

The Silverado has been racing in the Truck series since its inaugural season of 1995. It will have a new front fascia, front fenders, hood and tail.

“Our current Silverado we’ve been racing on the track since 2014,” said Dayne Pierantoni, program manager for the Silverado. “And with the new RST model coming out in ’19, we decided we would update our race truck to incorporate the features of the new RST.” 

“It looks sharp,” Johnny Sauter said. “I’m excited to see that come to fruition and be able to race that next year in the Truck Series and to try and win another championship. It’s been a great partnership from my standpoint.”